Science News

New Drug Delivery System

Sat, 3rd Aug 2002

Part of the show How Acupuncture Works

Most people know that all drugs have side effects, undesired effects produced by the drugs acting on parts of the body other than those affected by a disease. Chemotherapy agents used to treat cancer are a prime example. Part of the reason that drugs have these effects is because they cannot currently be targeted just to diseased cells or tissues and instead affect most cells in the body. But an American scientist has come up with an invention that might help to get around this problem. American scientist Professor Jerry Atwood has developed a unique 'nanocapsule' that can package up drug molecules and only release them where they are needed in the body. The capsules work by having special receptors on their surfaces, which recognise only certain cell types in the body, such as cancer cells for example. When the nanocapsule binds onto its target cells it discharges its payload of drug into the diseased area. The benefit of this technology is that because the therapy is selectively delivered to diseased tissues is the body, much higher doses of a drug can be used, yet unpleasant and harmful side effects are minimised. The other benefit is that many drugs developed over the years which have fallen by the wayside because they had too many side effects might become useful again when delivered selectively in this way.

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